By Jake Donovan
Javier Fortuna and Luis Franco struggled to entertain over the course of 10 rounds. In the end, the judges struggled to pick a winner.
The pair of former Olympians-turned-featherweight contenders boxed to a strangely scored 10-round draw in their ESPN2-televised main event Friday evening in Miami, Oklahoma.
Scores were 99-91 Franco, 96-94 Fortuna and 95-95 even, in a bout that saw little action, suspect scoring and a power outage.
The bout was supposed to serve as redemption of sorts for both fighters. Franco hadn't fought since a split decision loss to Mauricio Munoz last October. Fortuna's last fight - a 1st round knockout of horribly overmatched Miguel Zamudio - was overshadowed by his inability to make weight and losing his interim featherweight belt at the scales.
Both began the fight with good intentions, but their rhythm was immediately disrupted by a power outage. It was reported by the ESPN2 Friday Night Fights ringside crew that the casino was running off of a backup generator due to a car crash knocking out the building's original source of power. A delay of nearly 10 minutes forced both fighters to sit on their stools in partial darkness.
The lights eventually came on, but it took a while for either fighter to get into a groove. The cold start had a greater effect on Fortuna, a consensus Top 10 featherweight who was supposed to use this fight as a springboard towards contention.
Instead, he struggled to put his punches together, as Franco made an early impression on the scorecards. Fortuna picked up the pace midway through the bout, enough to lend the perception that he was in control of the action.
Franco managed to box his way back into a competitive fight in the later rounds, slowing down momentum just when it appeared that Fortuna was ready to seal a victory. The Cuban boxer fizzled in the final round, but as it turned out enough damage was already done to prevent his heavily favored foe from leaving with a win.
The draw verdict puts Fortuna's record at 22-0-1 (16KO). The Dominican southpaw has yet to live up to the massive amount of hype that has surrounded his career thus far, nor is he enjoying a particularly memorable 2013 campaign. He remains unbeaten, but Friday's performance was largely forgettable.
Franco still seeks his first win since Dec. '09. However, a draw in a fight in which his opponent was a 7-1 favorite to beat him could very well serve as a moral victory. What it represents in reality is his second straight non-win, as his record now stands at 11-1-1 (7KO).
The bout was Franco's first fight since last year's loss to Munoz. In between then and now, came an opportunity to fight for a title whose accompanying payday he deemed unacceptable. Franco turned down the chance to face Billy Dib earlier this year on ESPN2. The opportunity instead went to Evgeny Gradovich, who won a majority decision and the featherweight belt, which he recently successfully defended against Munoz last weekend.
For his troubles, Franco earned $5,000 less for this fight than he would have in a winnable fight against a vulnerable titlist that he would have faced in Dib earlier this year.
Kermit Cintron picked up his first win in nearly two years, although the long-awaited moment came in an awkward 10-round borefest. The former welterweight titlist managed a unanimous decision over Jonathan Batista in the ESPN2-televised co-feature.
Scores were 99-88 and 98-89 (twice) for Cintron, who was credited with an 8th round knockdown. Batista was also docked two points in the final round for rabbit punching and what was ruled excessive holding. Neither call was the right one, making referee Gerry Ritter's performance every bit as bad as the two fighters he was asked to officiate.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as the Records Keeper for the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a member of Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox